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Missouri legislature adjourns without making deal on business bill

Friday, May 14, 2010 | 6:51 p.m. CDT; updated 4:23 p.m. CDT, Saturday, May 15, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers approved new political ethics rules Friday but adjourned for the year after failing to forge a deal on a jobs bill backed by the governor.

Passage of legislation enhancing the state's campaign finance and ethics laws allowed lawmakers to check off one of their top goals for the 2010 session, though it wasn't as sweeping of an accomplishment as some had sought.

Big ideas about economic development and tax credit reform fizzled in the end, as did some of the money-saving bills that had been counted on to prop up Missouri's shaky budget.

Gov. Jay Nixon negotiated with lawmakers until the waning moments of the session on a bill that would have authorized new tax incentives for manufacturers that improve their factories in Missouri. Although the bill could have applied to other companies, the chief target was the Ford Motor Co. assembly plant near Kansas City.

Republican senators who balked at the creation of new tax incentives agreed to go along with the plan on two conditions: House passage of a bill revamping Missouri's pension system and Nixon creating a task force to recommend restrictions on Missouri's vast system of tax credits.

But the House never brought up the pension bill for a vote, and both bills ultimately failed.

The demise of the pension legislation likely will mean more spending cuts to state government, because lawmakers had relied on its savings just weeks earlier when adopting a budget for the 2011 fiscal year.

Numerous other bills did make to Nixon's desk on the final day. Among them was a bill expanding the information that medical clinics would be required to provide to a woman at least 24 hours before she had an abortion. Nixon has not said whether he plans to sign the bill.

The ethics legislation passed Friday would beef up the investigatory powers of the Missouri Ethics Commission and cut down on the ability of donors to shroud contributions by shifting money among various political committees. But it does not reinstate campaign contribution limits and does not close the revolving door between legislating and lobbying.

"We have taken some very good steps," said Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, chairman of a House ethics committee. "We have moved the issue forward, but do not under any circumstances say this is a comprehensive ethics reform that addresses all the issues we have in Jefferson City."

Lawmakers passed several other prominent bills a day before their session ended, including ones imposing strict regulations on sexually oriented businesses, revamping drunken driving laws and banning a synthetic form of marijuana that currently is being legally sold in Missouri.

 


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